How parents can help teens become better drivers

Parents play a pivotal role in shaping their teenagers into safe and responsible drivers. Ultimately, parents’ support and involvement can help instil safe driving habits and prepare youngsters for the responsibilities of the road.

Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions, says by providing Learner Drivers with consistent guidance, patience, and constructive feedback during practice drives, parents can help build their teen’s confidence and competence as drivers.

“Encouraging open communication, setting clear expectations and rules, serving as a positive driving role model, investing in driving lessons, and ensuring the car is in good working order will help your teen’s development as a skilled driver.”

Before getting in the car

Smit says it’s advisable to place a Learner Drivers sign on the car, even though it’s not required by law. “The Learner Drivers sign will hopefully encourage other drivers to be more patient when your teen driver stops for a little longer at a stop street or drives slowly down the road. If you’re placing the sign in your rear window, make sure the sign doesn’t obscure your vision. You can also stick a Learner Driver sign on the rear body of the back of your car.”

Even though your child might have recently passed their test, review the road rules with them again. This could help both parent and child! Many of us pick up bad driving habits over time. Think carefully about your driving and the habits you don’t want to teach your child.

Plan your route and discuss it with your child. Initially choose easy, quiet routes with no traffic lights or traffic circles. As your teen becomes a more confident driver, plan different routes with varying traffic scenarios.

Make sure your car insurance covers other drivers and be sure that your car is in good working order. “A car breakdown is a traumatic experience for any driver, but especially so for a new driver. Keep your car in tip-top shape by staying up to date with scheduled services,” advises Smit. MotorHappy is a Service Plan provider that makes it easy and affordable for motorists to manage car services.

 Driving with a Learner Driver

  • Don’t panic
  • Breathe deeply. (But not too obviously!)
  • Give clear instructions and repeat them calmly. Remember, your teen is nervous, so there are no sudden changes to the planned route.
  • Make sure your teen maintains both maximum and minimum speed requirements.
  • Be ready to hit the hazard lights if your Learner Driver accidentally stalls the car.
  • Practice driving in different conditions: light, dark, rain, light, medium and heavy traffic. As your Learner Driver becomes more confident try out different types of roads like highways or busier main roads. 
  • Once your child has their full Driver’s License, they will drive with passengers in their car. Your child must understand this responsibility. Practice driving with passengers in the car.

Calling the professionals

Parent involvement is very important when it comes to teaching your child to drive, but it is equally important to invest in a few lessons with a professional driving instructor. “Not all driving schools are created equal. Get referrals from people you know and check if the school is accredited with the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors (SAIDI),” says Smit.

Once you’ve chosen a school, meet the instructor, ask to see his credentials, and ask him about the training process. After the event, ask the Learner Driver about their experience and let them take you for a drive. Assess their progress.

Newly driving teens need constant involvement from their parents. You want your child to be well-equipped for any scenario on the road. Practice patience and remain calm so that hopefully your teen will remain open to your feedback.

Once your child has passed their Driver’s Test, it’s advisable to establish clear rules, such as limiting night-time driving and passenger numbers. “Give your child gradual independence, allowing them time to develop safe driving habits and ensuring they’re well-prepared for the challenges ahead,” says Smit.